The hypothesis of biotensegrity and D.D. Palmer’s hypothesis on tone: a discussion of their alignment

Desmond C. Wiggins*, Roger M. Engel

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Objective: The purpose of this article is to compare D. D. Palmer's hypothesis of tone with the modern hypothesis of biotensegrity. 

    Discussion: Although researchers have been using the hypothesis of biotensegrity for over 40 years to explain the mechanics of movement within biological systems, it has experienced revived support in the last 25 years. Biotensegrity as a concept is applied at the molecular, cellular, tissue, and organ levels, revealing a different understanding of the architecture of biological organisms. Biotensegrity offers a way of exploring the human body in the field of functional anatomy. The model has become popular among bodywork and movement practitioners, as it recognizes the wholeness of the human body. D. D. Palmer used tone to explain the origin of disease; biotensegrity, instead, explains why certain diseases may develop. 

    Conclusion: The concept of tone hypothesized by D. D. Palmer is different from the modern concept of biotensegrity. Although biotensegrity offers a different way of seeing how the human body functions, using it as a theoretical framework to explain the effects of manual therapies such as chiropractic may be premature. The use of the biotensegrity hypothesis requires further research and investigation before application in clinical settings.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)82-87
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Chiropractic Humanities
    Issue numberC
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


    • Chiropractic
    • Manipulation


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